– Both the shooting, the killing of the polar bear and the damage to the tourist could have been avoided if there had been a ban on tents in the polar bear’s areas.
That’s what veterinarian and manager at Noah, Siri Martinsen, says.
The polar bear was scared away from the area by shots and was later located by the authorities.
Then the polar bear was so badly injured that it had to be killed.
– When you see that the wild animals are being put in danger, in addition to the tourists, it is quite obvious that something must be done, says Martinsen.
– A ban on lying down under a sheet and sleeping in the middle of the polar bear’s kingdom is a natural first step.
Less shy polar bear
Among other things, due to less ice, the polar bear has become increasingly close in recent years.
– It is a trend that has happened over time. At the same time, the number of tourists moving in polar bear areas has increased, says polar bear researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, Jon Aars.
Fred Skancke Hansen is the security officer at the University of Svalbard (UNIS). Every year, they have a number of groups of researchers and students camp in the Svalbard nature.
He says that it has been several years since UNIS decided that they will not set up any tent camps either near the beach zone or so that the camp is visible from the beach zone.
Therefore, they now always camp well inland, away from the beach zone and well secured by people who have trained in the routines.
– We feel that there are more polar bears, and that establishing themselves in the beach zone will lead to conflict. If one chooses to expose oneself on the shore, in our opinion it is only a matter of whether when a polar bear will appear.
In addition to a changed climate, the polar bear has become more accustomed to people, and is thus less shy, according to Years.
Among other things, this can make it more difficult to scare the bear.
– You should always be aware that polar bears can attack people. And if people are out camping and bringing food, that attracts the bear. In addition, it is curious and tries to find food in different ways, says Aars.
Good routines are more important than bans
Despite more approaching polar bears and several polar bear attacks in recent years, Governor of Svalbard, Lars Fause, believes that there are better solutions than a tent ban.
– As of today, there are no such rules. This has been discussed. I firmly believe that taking the good, safe risk assessments and having routines is more important than introducing a ban.
He says the investigation will, among other things, uncover what risk assessments were made when the tent camp was pitched and up until the polar bear attack occurred.
– Is it safe to sleep in a tent on Svalbard?
– There are many tour companions who are in tents, from March and throughout the summer. Those who do so must make good assessments both of the place they are in and, not least, have good polar bear protection and routines for notification.
Siri Martinsen in Noah believes that it is not sufficient and believes that action must be taken.
– This is not the first time such an incident has happened, so we think it makes sense to ban tents, she says and adds;
– Wildlife tourism, which involves people seeking out nature and wild animals in order to gain a better understanding, is positive. But it must be done in such a way that it is not invasive, disturbing and, in the worst case, fatal to the wild animals. Because then the whole point of wildlife tourism disappears.